This year's escape

There's something out of place in this next photo. If you can't spot it, can't figure it out, here's a clue: the grey stones in the photo are part of a staircase.

If you guessed that the pair of bamboo shoots is the problem, you're right! I know I'm crazy about bamboo and will plant it almost anywhere I can in my yard, but I'm not crazy enough to plant it in the middle of a staircase. Obviously I've had a rhizome escape, and it's time to take care of it.


Here's the plant so you can get a better idea of what's going on here:

The stairs and the staircase-blocking shoots are in the lower right corner of that photo.

They're pretty good-sized shoots too, so maybe this plant is ready to put on a little height this year?

Taking a look around, I can see at least one additional rhizome above the top step:

I knew that I wasn't very thorough with the rhizome pruning on this plant last year, and this is what happens. It's a nice little stairway from the driveway down to the patio, but I think it's going to get a little messed up:

So assessing the situation, it's obvious that the rhizome comes straight out of the main planting area, so I'll just dig here and find the wayward rhizome:

Once I dug down though, I saw that the rhizomes here were previously cut:

Hmmm. Those shoots are much too large to be coming from a severed rhizome, so there must be another rhizome somewhere... I dug deeper:

Still nothing. Moving downhill and carefully removing some plants and soil, I found another rhizome and another shoot:

unfortunately that rhizome doesn't appear to be going to any of these shoots, which means there are more rhizomes here too.

The root of the problem is this rock which interfered with my rhizome pruning:

Removing it, I could see a couple more rhizomes, and some more shoots!

Pulling out the one rhizome that was headed down the hill (away from the shoots that I'm trying to remove), it ended up being 5'-6' long:

At this point I put the camera down and got serious about digging, rhizome location, and removal. Got another rhizome out:

Unfortunately it was not connected to the original shoots either!

Getting more aggressive with the shovel, I finally got the last of the rhizomes out:

A bit more work than I bargained for, that's for sure. The stairway is looking a little worse now too:

No real harm done there. This soil will settle back in fast enough, and now that this side is rhizome-free I can rest a little easier.

So what originally looked like a single rhizome escape ended up being... three, four, five... I'm not sure how many rhizomes.

Looking at the bright side, I have several nice rhizome sections to pot up now:

Although the existing shoots on these won't reach their full size and may actually "abort" (stop growing, die, and rot) these will turn into very nice plants in a year or two.

To think that I was worried that I didn't have any divisions of this bamboo (Phyllostachys aureosulcata 'aureocaulis') potted up. I certainly do now.

This hopefully will reinforce the importance of thorough rhizome pruning in my mind. I don't want to be doing this every spring!


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Jim  – (April 17, 2011 at 7:39 AM)  

Wow. That's a lot of work. I have two Nandina bushes in my yard that spread like crazy--not bamboo I know, despite the nickname. But is it the same process to keep it from spreading?

Steve Lau  – (April 17, 2011 at 9:18 AM)  

In that last picture is what I meant when I said I either topped the shoots or pulled off the sheaths to get them to leaf out faster to avoid aborting, but sometimes that's not even necessary if it has enough rhizome mass.

Alan  – (April 17, 2011 at 12:25 PM)  

Jim: I don't think Nandina spreads with rhizomes. Is it "suckering" from the roots? Some shrubs spread that way.

Steve: I'm not sure what you mean. That last photo is of the three shoots connected to their rhizome in a pot.

Steve Lau  – (April 17, 2011 at 12:34 PM)  

I was just referring to the post where I had topped vivax aureocaulus, and that's the exact situation in which I might do that.

Those shoots look like they might be too big to be supported by the amount of rhizome you have.

Gerhard Bock (Succulents and More)  – (April 17, 2011 at 2:15 PM)  

That looks like a good workout! How deep was the deepest rhizome?

M  – (April 17, 2011 at 2:43 PM)  

Where's the dead bird? :D

Mud  – (April 17, 2011 at 11:28 PM)  

Grasses and bamboo amaze me with their tenacity. So hard to contain or eliminate.
Still, good work!

Alan  – (April 18, 2011 at 7:20 AM)  

Steve: gotcha. I'd probably just remove one shoot completely, but I'm leaning toward just seeing what happens.

M: my bamboos prefer to send rhizomes into attractive, hard-to-access hardscape features. =)

Gerhard: just a few inches -- maybe 6" -- except for where they had to get under the rock, which was just a few inches deeper. It was more the interference of the rock than the depth that caused me to miss them when pruning last year.

Jono / Real Men Sow  – (April 18, 2011 at 3:49 PM)  

I inherited a bamboo plant when we moved in to our house. I had absolutely no idea how powerful the roots are, its scary stuff.

Managed to dig some up that had got under the paving, but its also gone under the shed and next door's fence.

Off to google 'Rhizome Barrier'...

Alan  – (April 18, 2011 at 5:33 PM)  

Jono: those are "rhizomes", not actually the roots. I know it doesn't matter what they're called when you're trying to dig them out. =)

You don't need to get every piece out of the ground. Once it's severed from the main plant, just keep knocking off all of its shoots and it will eventually die.

PfffrW  – (April 19, 2011 at 7:18 PM)  

Have you ever eaten the shoots?
I have several neighbors that come over to harvest mine!

Alan  – (April 20, 2011 at 11:48 AM)  

Bill: I'll eat the odd one here and there, but I'm just getting to the point with my groves that I can start doing that. Until now I've been more concerned with every shoot turning into a culm, and if they escape (as they did in this post) I'm interested in getting the rhizomes potted up.

So no shoots to spare yet. Next year there will be plenty to eat though. They're quite yummy raw.

alan  – (April 22, 2011 at 1:34 PM)  

Alan, do you put the newly potted rhizomes in a greenhouse? What is your success rate with the sections? BTW like the blog & the lenses you use. i mostly use an old micro-nikkor 55 3.5-32.
-another alan

Alan  – (April 22, 2011 at 1:38 PM)  

Alan: nope, just out in the open. The "good" ones that have swelling buds and/or shoots are are nice and long will get "permanently" potted. The short lengths that are questionable I'll put several into the same pot and will repot the ones that grow.

Alan  – (April 22, 2011 at 1:39 PM)  

I forgot to add that the "good" ones are 90% success or better. The questionable ones... not sure yet. This is the first year I've really kept any questionable ones, so I'll let you know. :-)

Unknown  – (April 23, 2011 at 7:53 PM)  

Every time I get tempted to plant some of the wonderful runners I'm growing in pots, I read something like this. :) I'll stick to my clumpers for in-ground plantings for now.

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